When your age changes from XLVIII to XLIX, you take notice. After all, you're looking at L. You gotta take stock, think it over; reflect. Dress up, go out, have a party?
Or maybe your XLIX isn't the kind that comes with a tux or a suit, or fancy reservations. Maybe you mark the ultimate or penultimate mileposts in your own way, and I hope you do, whether or not fancy dress is involved. Here's my Dear Old Person, marking XLIX in an unforgiving 15-knot northeast wind, his face turned into the blue Atlantic. He's wrapped in layers of cotton tee shirts and fleece, carrying a rough picnic lunch courtesy of the Publix deli in his backpack. Despite the chilly wind, he's looking into the stunning blue of the sky, watching beyond the breaking waves for any sign of early-arriving whales and giving thanks without fanfare for the anniversary of November 13.
The cycle of high and low tides didn't match neatly to the warmest part of the day, but we found the mark of the most recent high tide to have left fascinating fingerprints. Where only a few days before the dunes undulated gently between the shoreline with its persistent breakers, and the higher, more permanent dunes, anchored by beach grasses and sea oats, the Great Mother showed a wholly different face on Rod's birthday. Overnight, the relentless tide carved out sharp cliffs standing in relief against the level of the ocean itself. Some of them were 4 or 5 feet tall. Some were even taller. Just out of perfect focus, any of them might have passed for images of the Grand Canyon, right down to the striations and layers of rock and sediment which in this case were likely composed of a visible layer representing each tidal passing. In this photo, the high point at the far right is about 6 feet above the breaking waves below. And those white bundles on the sand are sea foam, further illustration of the water's astonishing energy, churning each wave into beautiful clusters of bubbles, each casting itself into the windward motion, disappearing on the wind.
(A note about sea foam and Boxers, or maybe Dogs Generally, without regard to breed: our Meg finds chasing sea foam almost as satisfactory as chasing birds, which is forbidden to her. April, a foster dog much beloved of us who is now happily beloved in her Forever Family despite issues with breast cancer, had more fun chasing sea foam on the beach than I can put into words. Take your dog to the beach in a northeast wind if you can. And if you can't, curl up together and tell her stories about the beach. If you're telling stories you can even tell her about chasing birds. I'll never tell.)
The shoreline drew us onward, as it always does. We walked up to the northernmost edge of Guana's beach-facing Eastern border. At the very edge of the protected land just south of the sign marking the border we spotted several turkey buzzards; some were in flight and others seemed to be rotating in and out of a certain spot. When we got close enough, we could see what had attracted them. A mature loggerhead turtle, dead, had washed near the high tide line and was nestled against the sheared-off dune line. The shell was easily 2 feet from the back of the turtle's head to the posterior edge. How old was this turtle, we wondered? How did this turtle compare to the tiny baby hatchlings from this year, whose small bodies would fit neatly into the palm of your hand? I'm not sure, but I can tell you I'll be asking the Turtle Superhero guys for their insights; stay tuned. The edges of his shell were carefully covered by Rod to protect the body from encroachment by the buzzards - we called in the find and were hopeful someone would be able to analyze the remains for useful information.
So: how old was this beautiful old turtle? Female loggerheads begin to reproduce, I think, when they're about 15 years old. They are long-lived as a species and as ancient amphibious denizens of the planet. Perhaps this one had long passed his or her L birthday; perhaps the sighting was a kindness from the Great Mother of the ocean. Happy birthday, Rodney: thank you for helping as a steward of the planet. Take joy in every moment.